“Leap of Faith”

~ an essay on Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and his writings, philosophy.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) is known as the “Father of Existentialism.” As a philosopher, he was a profound, if at-times inscrutable, speaker on such topics as freedom, anxiety, despair. And faith. I was personally introduced to him years ago via some of his more provocative or ingenious quotations, such as:

“I opened my eyes and saw the real world — and I began to laugh”

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

And I learned of him from following old tumblr posts of the brilliant Existentialist Comics. The cartoonish Søren presented as an especially melancholic vessel of paradoxical hope and despair, restless yearner for infinity and decrier of finitude, who saw life as equally meaningless — devoid of not only true-hearted historical progressions within the social sphere but also any eventual permanent resolution toward “the self” within an individual — and at the same time saw life as full of stages wherein one might approach a godlike consciousness, an enlightened, “infinitely-regressed” state of being. Kierkegaard’s stages, or spheres, of existence were as follows: 1) The Aesthetic {the hedonistic yet unconscious despairer}, 2) The Ethical {the self-aware, duty-bound, conscious despairer}, and 3) The Religious {the transcendent ‘knight of faith’, who has made a leap… and lies beyond despair, living at ease within finitude’s limitations}. Like in a Hegelian dialectic, the triad forms a thesis x antithesis = synthesis, wherein the Religious life is a compromised combination of the prior two styles of existence, passion melded alongside commitment.

~

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (b. 1813, d. 1855) was a profound and prolific writer in the Danish “golden age” of intellectual and artistic activity. His work crosses the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, literary criticism, devotional literature and fiction. Kierkegaard brought this potent mixture of discourses to bear as social critique and for the purpose of renewing Christian faith within Christendom. At the same time he made many original conceptual contributions to each of the disciplines he employed. He is known as the “father of existentialism”, but at least as important are his critiques of Hegel and of the German romantics, his contributions to the development of modernism, his stylistic experimentation, his vivid re-presentation of biblical figures to bring out their modern relevance, his invention of key concepts which have been explored and redeployed by thinkers ever since, his interventions in contemporary Danish church politics, and his fervent attempts to analyse and revitalise Christian faith.

~ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Some of Kierkegaard’s key ideas include the concept of “subjective and objective truths”, the knight of faith, the recollection and repetition dichotomy, angst, the infinite qualitative distinction, faith as a passion, and the three stages on life’s way. Kierkegaard wrote in Danish and the reception of his work was initially limited to Scandinavia, but by the turn of the 20th century his writings were translated into French, German, and other major European languages. By the mid-20th century, his thought exerted a substantial influence on philosophy, theology, and Western culture.

~ Wikipedia

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Just recently I have decided to finally read Kierkegaard for reasons which are my own. Specifically, Either/Or and Fear and Trembling, two of his most notable works. In each, he philosophizes primarily upon faith as a source of hope in a dark world, and a solution — albeit complex, challenging, and potentially impossible to grasp in the end — to the existential terrors of this transient existence. For him, this faith came with Christendom, in the inner spiritual world of the God of Abraham and all His dogmas and histories. My takeaways, ethereal and sometimes ill-fitted to my own worldview, are as follows.

~

Søren was liable to philosophize in paradoxes, as they are often the only apt method of speaking upon this life’s travails.

This is the main defect with everything human, that it is only through opposition that the object of desire is possessed. I shan’t speak of the various syndromes that can keep the psychologist busy (the melancholic has the best-developed sense of humour, the most extravagant person is often the one most prone to the picturesque, the dissolute one often the most moral, the doubter often the most religious), but simply recall that it is through sin that one first catches sight of salvation. Besides my other numerous circle of acquaintances I have one more intimate confidant — my melancholy. In the midst of my joy, in the midst of my work, she waves to me, calls me to one side, even though physically I stay put. My melancholy is the most faithful mistress I have known; what wonder, then, that I love her in return.

~ Either/Or

A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.

~ Either/Or

What then would be the good of having gained oneself, what would be the good of getting a sword which could conquer the whole world if one did nothing with it but thrust it into the scabbard?

The Scriptures say, ‘What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and suffer harm to his own soul?’

~ Either/Or

You loved God, and therefore your soul could only find repose and joy in the thought that you must always be in the wrong.

~ Either/Or

In the ‘age’ of his day — the mid 19th century — {as in our own age today, one comes to find out as they read him}, the tedium of modernity, the tyranny of a conscious mind to compulsorily turn to melancholic despair and less its opposition, and the constant confusions within all mediums of human communication became the dominating factors of his discourse. Kierkegaard’s own life was privileged, born a member of the upper class, he speaks as an aesthete and purveyor of the high arts from his own experience {many of his writings were done under pseudonyms, such as ‘Victor Eremita’ and ‘Johannes de Silentio’ with fact and fiction mingled in their origins relating to his real self}. As many modern day reactionaries might put it more cynically, Kierkegaard spoke honestly of society’s lacking in terms of true convictions and personal responsibilities due to his own melancholic deprivations and worldly inexperiences. The power of traditions such as sincere, individuated religious faith — beyond the organized institution of “The Church”, which he saw as mostly regressive — relative to its increasing absence within the world he saw living about him, caused him anxiety of a desperate and to my eye, existentially empathic kind.

My soul has lost possibility. Were I to wish for anything I would not wish for wealth and power, but for the passion of the possible, that eye which everywhere, ever young, ever burning, sees possibility. Pleasure disappoints, not possibility.

Our age is thus melancholy enough to realize there is something called responsibility and that it has some significance. So while everyone wants to rule, no one wants the responsibility.

This is part of the confusion evident in so many ways in our age: we look for a thing where we ought not to look for it; and worse, we find it where we ought not to find it. We want to be edified in the theatre, to be influenced aesthetically in church, to be converted by novels, to enjoy books of devotion; we want philosophy in the pulpit and the preacher in the professorial chair.

~ Either/Or

~

In robust literary critiques of the legends Don Juan and Faust, Kierkegaard draws a distinction between the aesthetic seducer in the former, and the ‘ethical’, or committed seducer in the latter. Don Juan seduces 1,003 women, craving the cunning, passionate game that the work requires, right up until the moment of actual attainment when he backs off, no longer interested ; Faust seduces one woman, who while still a daemoniac, at least appears capable of believing in a life of sincere love beyond the games of lusting and desire that the role of “seducer” affords… and also makes a deal with the devil. In both men, humanity is delivered timeless romantic ‘heroes’, infinitely intriguing if yet immoral ~

“Faust and Don Juan are the Titans and giants of the Middle Ages, who although no different from those of antiquity in the grandeur of their endeavours, certainly differ from them in standing in isolation, in not combining their forces before storming heaven. All the power is gathered in just one individual.”

~ Either/Or

And also in both men, Kierkegaard notes that the spiritual — infinite — element is missing absolutely from their lives. Not just in their singularity as self-absorbed men of the extraordinary natures, purposefully alone and tormented by their marked mountains in life — but in the way that they choose to live it: bounded by flesh, amorally wading unto transient fruits that soon become ash in their mouths because of their chosen road and because of the lacking of anything supernal, immaterial, of the spirit upon it. This is why they are tragic, and fated to be always yearning and restless, always in despair, whether they are fully conscious of it or not.

Kierkegaard focuses upon each of them in his writings, either from sheer interest in their mythic characterizations, or to champion their paragon modeling of aesthetic and ethical life, respectively, or perhaps — as bastions of intrigue, shatterers of the seemingly inescapable tedium that he as a modern man of only slight consequence felt every day:

PEOPLE of experience maintain that it is very sensible to start from a principle. I grant them that and start with the principle that all men are boring. Or will someone be boring enough to contradict me in this? This principle possesses to the highest degree that power of repulsion one always requires of any negative that genuinely provides the principle of motion. Not merely is it repellent, it is infinitely forbidding; and the person with this principle behind him must necessarily have an infinite momentum to make discoveries with. For if my principle is true, to slacken or increase one’s impetus one need only consider with more or less moderation how ruinous boredom is for man; and if one wants to risk doing injury to the locomotive itself by pressing the speed to the maximum, one need only say to oneself: ‘Boredom is a root of all evil.’ Strange that boredom, so still and static, should have such power to set things in motion. The effect that boredom exercises is altogether magical, except that it is not one of attraction but of repulsion.

How ruinous boredom is everyone also recognizes in relation to children. So long as children are enjoying themselves, they are always well-behaved. This can be said in the strictest sense, since if they sometimes get out of control even in play, really that is because they are beginning to get bored; boredom has already set in, though in a different way. So in choosing a nursemaid one pays attention not just to her sobriety, faithfulness and decency; one also takes into consideration, aesthetically, her ability to amuse the children. And one would not hesitate to dismiss a nursemaid lacking in this qualification even if she possessed all other desirable virtues. Here, indeed, the principle is clearly acknowledged; but so remarkable are the ways of the world, so much have habit and boredom gained the upper hand, that justice is done to aesthetics only in the case of the nursemaid. Were one to demand divorce on the grounds that one’s wife was boring, or a king’s abdication because he was boring to look at, or a priest thrown out of the land because he was boring to listen to, or a cabinet minister dismissed, or a life-sentence for a journalist, because they were dreadfully boring, it would be impossible to get one’s way. What wonder, then, that the world is regressing, that evil is gaining ground more and more, since boredom is on the increase and boredom is a root of all evil…

~ Either/Or

Kierkegaard’s logic seems to follow that aestheticism provides the first and easiest escape from such tedium; an ethical existence of duty-bound and *material* purposefulness then makes for an even higher calling from such boredom, a life forged that must be fought for and continuously developed. This is the first layer of the “Either/Or” dilemma that he presents — EITHER to live freely as an aesthete, hedonistically consuming the flesh-bound fruits of transient and unreflective feasts ~ OR to build the foundation of a ‘moral’ life, disciplined and self-limiting unto the interdependent demands of the people and institutions around you, to lead an ethical life.

“So it appears that every aesthetic view of life is despair, and that everyone who lives aesthetically is in despair, whether he knows it or not. But when one knows it (and you indeed know it), a higher form of existence is an imperative requirement.”

A person who lives ethically knows that in any situation it is a question of what one sees and with what energy one regards it, and that the person cultivating himself in this way in the least significant situations in life may experience more than the person who has been a witness to, indeed a participant in, the most notable events. He knows that everywhere there is a dance floor, that even the lowliest man has his own, that when he himself so wishes, his dance can be just as beautiful, just as graceful, just as expressive, just as moving as that of those who have been assigned a place in history. It is this fencing skill, this suppleness, which is properly the immortal life of the ethical. To the person who lives aesthetically the old saying, ‘to be or not to be’, applies and the more aesthetically he is allowed to live, the more demands his life exacts, and if only the least of them is not fulfilled he is dead; the person who lives ethically always has a way out even when everything goes against him, even when the storm-filled clouds brood over him so darkly that his neighbour cannot see him, he has not perished, there is always a point he keeps hold of, and it is — himself.

~ Either/Or

Though this ethical life may be more, however subjectively Kierkegaard or anyone else comes to judge such distinctions, it is still not fulfilled. Additionally, the aesthetically-minded bags a superficial, everpresent satisfaction, and to the extent that they never become conscious of their inner despairing, lead an objectively easier life. The man of ethics may be *good* – but is he happy? Is he living a life of meaning? Perhaps this is more likely relative to the aesthete. {Perhaps not.} To Kierkegaard such a life of sanguine, fully realized, tranquil meaning is still not possible in either case. He needs something drawn of the transcendent for that, which as mentioned before, both paths lack.

To synthesize these conflicting styles of living and ascend beyond them to the plane of satori and self-actualization, Kierkegaard introduces the aforementioned missing piece: faith. Alternatively, one could call this triumphant though abstract notion — true love {as neither Don or Faust ever found, as many within this life never do}.

If one loves, one does not follow the main road.

Love is everything. So, for one who loves, everything has ceased to have meaning in itself and only means something through the interpretation love gives it.

~ Either/Or

However, one can see that a true love requires sincere hope at the endless possibilities of life, a decided dissatisfaction with the finite. And for Kierkegaard and the paragon haver-of-faith that he builds out in his philosophy — “The Knight of Faith” — he expounds that they must become detached and indifferent to the finite. Alternatively known as “the knight of infinite resignation”, this champion must, by definition, sublimate their love of anything material, any person — no matter how true-hearted their feelings may be — into a love of the spirit. For in the spiritual realm, unlike that of the finite, imperfect realm of materiality that we walk and rot within, anything and everything is possible. For example, Kierkegaard presents a man falling in love with a woman, who inevitably at some point {he speaks from personal experience, concerning his ill-fated engagement to lover and muse Regine Olsen} experiences a dread realization that the ‘idea’ of the woman — the aspect of this person that they have fallen in love with — cannot be held forever, as in the continuous reality of marriage and cooperative living through the remainder of their lives together, as one unit. As Kierkegaard saw it, right or wrong, love fades necessarily in this circumstance, duty and partnership and commitment all coming to take its place. A love of love suffers, as does the possibility of further and stronger loves in the future, with different persons, in different times. The shadow of the bon vivant-ian seducers, Don Juan and Faust, strikes at the vulnerable-hearted. A dissatisfaction with the finitude of love, of mortality, intervenes and ruins the relation. The knight experiences no such discontent.

“…the finite tastes just as good to him [The Knight of Infinite Resignation] as to one who never knew anything higher, because his remaining in finitude would have no trace of a timorous, anxious routine, and yet he has this security that makes him delighted in it as if finitude were the surest thing of all… He resigned everything infinitely, and then he grasped everything again by virtue of the absurd. He is continually making the movement of infinity, but he does it with such precision and assurance that he continually gets finitude out of it, and no one ever suspects anything else.”

The Vigil ~ John Pettie (1884)

As paradoxically foolish as this train of thought may appear to some, Kierkegaard posits the ‘movement of infinity’ as the existential getaway, in which one transfigures their love, yet potential or in its complete and passionate fullness, for Man “into a love of the eternal being.” Love of God. It was this love that was perhaps the only love that Søren could grasp with certitude, even if it came in retreating fear of the possible failure of his marriage with Regine… The knight of faith, unlike the aesthete seducer or the man of ethics, has a profound conviction in the machinations of God, a truly eternal being. So much so that they are permitted to make what Kierkegaard called a “leap of faith.” The movement of infinity, the double movement — of both infinite and finite proportions simultaneously — in which one gives up something material — love with a woman, the life of a son, one’s future of pleasures and successes ~ something which feels immaterial and immortal and everything that we may rhetorically call spiritual with a sincerely true-hearted feeling in our conscious soul ~ to gain the infinite. The knight of faith does this absurd and impossible thing knowing that they will regain, in the end {in the afterlife}, the very thing which they have renounced.

~ Regine Olsen, a muse for Kierkegaard’s writings

As Kierkegaard draws in his analysis of Abraham on the mountain with his son Isaac before God, the embrace of the infinite requires sacrifice. That is, taking this leap of faith requires sacrifice. Of everything you knew before. The man you were. The life you led. And the anxiety of having to make this sacrifice before a God you cannot see and *cannot* truly know  —  in the case of Abraham, in direct antagonism to his moral duty as a father — is what makes the leap of faith so damn hard. The risk is immense. We sacrifice pleasure, all material expediencies, and the proverbial “devil you know” of the existence we held up to this precipice, for the mere potentiality of fulfillment, and meaning, in the end.

As humans, flawed and conscious and capable of remembering, for every sacrifice we make with our time, blood, sweat and tears, we demand primarily one thing: meaning. In our sacrificing, we go beyond. We must go beyond, else we despair. Meaning must be derived from our most dire actions, else we despair. We must be instrumental in every movement of our lives, progressing toward betterment, else we despair. At haphazard moments throughout, life must be more than it ever is or will be, else we despair. {This, to Kierkegaard, is why we are always despairing😞}. Living in the paradox of all this impossibility, this is then why we seek out God in Heaven in the first place. Unconsciously, as a species, since time immemorial, we do so, with stars in our eyes. In Elysium, in the realm of spirits and immortality, we may have our beyond-ing faith. We may have our meaning.

Hence, the undergirding conditions that necessitate the leap of faith.

It must be noted that this leap is self-conscious and impassioned, calling upon a higher duty than anything material, often in direct contradiction of mortal morality {such as with Abraham’s sacrifice of his son to God}. The leap of faith is, essentially, a decision to believe in something that you know you may be wrong about in the end; it is an existential choice, at the cost of everything, that there is something like this worth believing in, worth sacrificing anything and everything for, even and especially your own life. For it is spiritual. Infinite, etc. etc., and so on. It is a salve for death anxiety, a simplified code beyond morality or reason, beyond everything we could ever know. This is why the knight is so tranquil, so convinced and sanguine.

To this end passion is necessary. Every movement of infinity comes about by passion, and no reflection can bring a movement about. This is the continual leap in existence which explains the movement, whereas mediation is a chimera which according to Hegel is supposed to explain everything, and at the same time this is the only thing he has never tried to explain. Even to make the well-known Socratic distinction between what one understands and what one does not understand, passion is required, and of course even more to make the characteristic Socratic movement, the movement, namely, of ignorance. What our age lacks, however, is not reflection but passion. Hence in a sense our age is too tenacious of life to die, for dying is one of the most remarkable leaps, and a little verse of a poet has always attracted me much, because, after having expressed prettily and simply in five or six preceding lines his wish for good things in life, he concludes thus: Ein seliger Sprung in die Ewigkeit. ~ A blissful leap into eternity.

~ Fear and Trembling

The difference between the tragic hero and Abraham is clearly evident. The tragic hero still remains within the ethical. He lets one expression of the ethical find its telos in a higher expression of the ethical; the ethical relation between father and son, or daughter and father, he reduces to a sentiment which has its dialectic in its relation to the idea of morality. Here there can be no question of a teleological suspension of the ethical itself.

With Abraham the situation was different. By his act he overstepped the ethical entirely and possessed a higher telos outside of it, in relation to which he suspended the former.

The story of Abraham contains therefore a teleological suspension of the ethical. As the individual he became higher than the universal. This is the paradox which does not permit of mediation. It is just as inexplicable how he got into it as it is inexplicable how he remained in it. If such is not the position of Abraham, then he is not even a tragic hero but a murderer. To want to continue to call him the father of faith, to talk of this to people who do not concem themselves with anything but words, is thoughtless. A man can become a tragic hero by his own powers–but not a knight of faith. When a man enters upon the way, in a certain sense the hard way of the tragic hero, many will be able to give him counsel; to him who follows the narrow way of faith no one can give counsel, him no one can understand. Faith is a miracle, and yet no man is excluded from it; for that in which all human life is unified is passion, and faith is a passion.

~ Fear and Trembling

To put it my own way, Kierkegaard’s leap of faith is ultimately a subjective action against the world, against one’s inner despair. By definition, of course, faith involves something that cannot be objectively proven. It is a choice, to believe. A true-blue belief in a higher power, if one can reach it, does afford its boons {which must not be part of the rationale for the leap, lest your faith be undermined, in fact, rationality must play no part at all… another paradox}. A benevolent God, of course, vanquishes death anxiety. He dissolves nihilism instantly.

The leap of faith, extended beyond religion, is a conscious movement to believe in something that one perhaps “should not” believe in. God. Your father. Your son. Your boss. Your partner. In the modern day, in money, in power, in fame, in art… But you do. Everyone finds their reason. Those that make the leap; though I am of the mind that everyone eventually does, even if such ‘faith’ may not be in a higher power. In living for long enough, in any moral styling, one builds their beliefs. At the core of a life is a faith, worldly or spiritual, that drives it, if only unconsciously, in unreflective actions alone. In believing in this thing — in taking a leap of faith into its discursive, latent or constantly evolving contradictions — one serves to actualize themselves. One way or another, for better or worse. Faith causes one to become more complete of a person, more capable of the catharsis of rationalizing and expressing their fears and despairs, their finitude. And this thing, though it may be in defiance of social convention, is a Truth for them — a truth they are willing to “live and die for.”

“The crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”
~ Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

Subjective — or existential — truth is the kind of truth that Kierkegaard serves up, and advocates ever so enigmatically for people to find for themselves. This is why he is called the father of existentialism. And in my own belief, it seems likely that this kind of truth is the only one we may find in this life. What is especially devilish about this human condition, and what Kierkegaard brings up in his critiques of Hegel and of dialectical thinking in terms of history and civilizational progression, is that in terms of faith, as we have been speaking about here ~ enduring through the stages of life’s anxious and restless torments and despairs to even approach its initial shores ~ the work of previous generations is nearly nil. In that, no matter how much passion is poured onto pages concerning the trials and tribulations of this life from our mythic forebears, no matter to how True some people may have marked this strange existence of ours into tomes and plays and operas that will almost certainly stand to reign over all of human history — every single Man must still go through this essential harrowing, labyrinthine journeying of the soul, arriving in their own time, if ever, at the moment of the leap. Every single Man, no matter how versed in art or history or dogma, has to do the work for themselves — as Kierkegaard said of individuation, of faith-gathering, of ‘selfhood’ — “On the path to selfhood one must walk without meeting one single traveler.”

And as Kierkegaard also points out, ever the jester of paradox, no such ‘knight of faith’ has ever existed, and nor will they, can they… 😆

The knights of the infinite resignation are easily recognized: their gait is gliding and assured. Those on the other hand who carry the jewel of faith are likely to be delusive, because their outward appearance bears a striking resemblance to that which both the infinite resignation and faith profoundly despise … to Philistinism.

I candidly admit that in my practice I have not found any reliable example of the knight of faith, though I would not therefore deny that every second man may be such an example. I have been trying, however, for several years to get on the track of this, and all in vain. People commonly travel around the world to see rivers and mountains, new stars, birds of rare plumage, queerly deformed fishes, ridiculous breeds of men–they abandon themselves to the bestial stupor which gapes at existence, and they think they have seen something. This does not interest me. But if I knew where there was such a knight of faith, I would make a pilgrimage to him on foot, for this prodigy interests me absolutely. I would not let go of him for an instant, every moment I would watch to see how he managed to make the movements, I would regard myself as secured for life, and would divide my time between looking at him and practicing the exercises myself, and thus would spend all my time admiring him. As was said, I have not found any such person, but I can well think him.

~ Fear and Trembling

Kierkegaard’s whole philosophy — as he condemns Hegel for failing to do with his — is a mere thought experiment. “I can well think him.” This isn’t to say that there is not value in the conception of such a leaper, a knight of infinite resignation, resigned to God’s perfect wills. There is! But there is also a necessary realization of the relative impossibility of this form of ‘true’ faith in a higher power.

At the moment when the knight made the act of resignation he was convinced, humanly speaking, of the impossibility. This was the result reached by the understanding, and he had sufficient energy to think it. On the other hand, in an infinite sense it was possible, namely, by renouncing it; but this sort of possessing is at the same time a relinquishing, and yet there is no absurdity in this for the understanding, for the understanding continued to be in the right in affirming that in the world of the finite where it holds sway this was and remained an impossibility. This is quite as clear to the knight of faith, so the only thing that can save him is the absurd, and this he grasps by faith. So he recognizes the impossibility, and that very instant he believes the absurd; for, if without recognizing the impossibility with all the passion of his soul and with all his heart, he should wish to imagine that he has faith, he deceives himself, and his testimony has no bearing, since he has not even reached the infinite resignation.

Faith therefore is not an aesthetic emotion but something far higher, precisely because it has resignation as its presupposition; it is not an immediate instinct of the heart, but is the paradox of life and existence.

~ Fear and Trembling

Having faith in a realm of the spirit, with an immortal, omnipotent God that cares about you and yours requires all this paradoxical thinking by definition; I think most people understand this, especially true believers in God. Faith requires certainty in something *impossible*, or alternatively, something without any proof, something that if it were to be true would break everything we understand about our current world and reality. That is the full-hearted embrace of the mystery – that is the resignation that Kierkegaard speaks about. Faith is a quite unique expression of one’s conscious will, a kind of double-thinking relation wherein one accepts reality as it is, by continuing to take part in it in every other facet, existing on this mortal plane – but in the same moment, via their consciousness and their free-willed set of beliefs – defies it by believing in reality as it is *not*, in a higher, infinite reality that is both yet to be and with us here all the time…

Religious faith is, in Kierkegaard’s words, “the paradox of life and existence.”

That being said, I believe having faith, however absurd it may be today, seems imperative for the future of the species. I personally speak not in terms of Godlessness, Christian, Jewish or Islamic in nature — but instead in terms of a more general spiritual sense. It is my humble belief that the modern age sorely needs faith, in anything. Not in everything, for a belief in everything is still cynical, an anti-leap into the raw aestheticism of Don Juan, in his infinite chase, and into the obsessive ethicism of Faust, whose faith in power reliably brings ruin. There are perhaps an unlimited number of things that we may leap into that are fated to regress and degenerate us. {Xenophobia, racial/religious/cultural superiority, revenge, etc.} No, we need to find faith in the things that may progress us, in the very ideals and righteousness and Truth that Kierkegaard felt fell by the waysides of history, in place of power and expediency from those tasked with shaping it {i.e. the upper class}. He may be right there, at least for now. Perhaps the Age of Selfless Cooperation is yet to be, coming closer every day… Though we may not trust Kierkegaard’s judgment on everything, for all his intellectual passions and merits, he was also a man staunchly disapproving of women’s movement toward equality during his day, reproducing of the patriarchal and reactionary stances of previous gens and the church’s view of women primarily as wives and mothers, in their “traditional spiritual roles as epitomes of devotion and self-sacrifice.”

Simply, it is my position that we need to make a leap of faith that tomorrow can be better. And we need to continue making it, day after day, generation after generation, age after age. If all this {human existence} is to mean anything in the end…

I certainly need to. I have always wished to. But I cannot coalesce myself into a conclusion on what to make my own leap toward… 🤔

“The most dreadful thing of all is a personal existence that cannot coalesce in a conclusion.”
~ Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

{Goddammit Søren. Enough!}

“To have faith is to lose your mind and to win God.”
~ Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

{Ah yes, to lose your mind — the resolution of all the world’s wisdom.}

“Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world, forgotten by God, overlooked among the millions and millions in this enormous household. One keeps this anxiety at a distance by looking at the many round about who are related to him as kin and friends, but the anxiety is still there, nevertheless, and one hardly dares think of how he would feel if all this were taken away.”
~ Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

{OK. For real… Stop Søren.}

*sigh*

I for one try to cultivate faith in friends, in art. In music and storytelling. In political solidarity. In the fundamental interdependencies of this mortal realm. In the possibility that love is enough. And that there are things — ideas, systems, people — here on earth that are worthy of the faith that we may eventually place in them.

For in faith, any way one comes to it, one finds passion again. Passion unto something further. And I feel this “something” further — something beyond — is the implicit drive of this condition we call life. So even if I struggle to ever find it, I feel compelled to continue the search. I believe there are things worth believing in. One just has to seek them, cultivate them, and … leap.

Kierkegaard abides such a faith himself:

The knight of faith is obliged to rely upon himself alone, he feels the pain of not being able to make himself intelligible to others, but he feels no vain desire to guide others. The pain is his assurance that he is in the right way, this vain desire he does not know, he is too serious for that. The false knight of faith readily betrays himself by this proficiency in guiding which he has acquired in an instant. He does not comprehend what it is all about, that if another individual is to take the same path, he must become entirely in the same way the individual and have no need of any man’s guidance, least of all the guidance of a man who would obtrude himself. At this point men leap aside, they cannot bear the martyrdom of being uncomprehended, and instead of this they choose conveniently enough the worldly admiration of their proficiency. The true knight of faith is a witness, never a teacher, and therein lies his deep humanity, which is worth a good deal more than this silly participation in others’ weal and woe which is honored by the name of sympathy, whereas in fact it is nothing but vanity. He who would only be a witness thereby avows that no man, not even the lowliest, needs another man’s sympathy or should be abased that another may be exalted. But since he did not win what he won at a cheap price, neither does he sell it out at a cheap price, he is not petty enough to take men’s admiration and give them in return his silent contempt, he knows that what is truly great is equally accessible to all.

If a man has not enough passion to make either the one movement or the other, if he loiters through life, repenting a little, and thinks that the rest will take care of itself, he has once for all renounced the effort to live in the idea–and then he can very easily reach and help others to reach the highest attainments, i.e. delude himself and others with the notion that in the world of spirit everything goes as in a well-known game of cards where everything depends on haphazard. One can therefore divert oneself by reflecting how strange it is that precisely in our age when everyone is able to accomplish the highest things doubt about the immortality of the soul could be so widespread, for the man who has really made even so much as the movement of infinity is hardly a doubter. The conclusions of passion are the only reliable ones, that is, the only convincing conclusions. Fortunately existence is in this instance more kindly and more faithful than the wise maintain, for it excludes no man, not even the lowliest, it fools no one, for in the world of spirit only he is fooled who fools himself.

But the highest passion in a man is faith, and here no generation begins at any other point than did the preceding generation, every generation begins all over again, the subsequent generation gets no further than the foregoing–in so far as this remained faithful to its task and did not leave it in the lurch. That this should be wearisome is of course something the generation cannot say, for the generation has in fact the task to perform and has nothing to do with the consideration that the foregoing generation had the same task–unless the particular generation or the particular individuals within it were presumptuous enough to assume the place which belongs by right only to the Spirit which governs the world and has patience enough not to grow weary. If the generation begins that sort of thing, it is upside down, and what wonder then that the whole of existence seems to it upside down, for there surely is no one who has found the world so upside down as did the tailor in the fairy tale 97who went up in his lifetime to heaven and from that standpoint contemplated the world. If the generation would only concern itself about its task, which is the highest thing it can do, it cannot grow weary, for the task is always sufficient for a human life. When the children on a holiday have already got through playing all their games before the clock strikes twelve and say impatiently, “Is there nobody can think of a new game?” does this prove that these children are more developed and more advanced than the children of the same generation or of a previous one who could stretch out the familiar games, to last the whole day long? Or does it not prove rather that these children lack what I would call the lovable seriousness which belongs essentially to play?

Faith is the highest passion in a man. There are perhaps many in every generation who do not even reach it, but no one gets further. Whether there be many in our age who do not discover it, I will not decide, I dare only appeal to myself as a witness who makes no secret that the prospects for him are not the best, without for all that wanting to delude himself and to betray the great thing which is faith by reducing it to an insignificance, to an ailment of childhood which one must wish to get over as soon as possible. But for the man also who does not so much as reach faith life has tasks enough, and if one loves them sincerely, life will by no means be wasted, even though it never is comparable to the life of those who sensed and grasped the highest. But he who reached faith (it makes no difference whether he be a man of distinguished talents or a simple man) does not remain standing at faith, yea, he would be offended if anyone were to say this of him, just as the lover would be indignant if one said that he remained standing at love, for he would reply, “I do not remain standing by any means, my whole life is in this.” Nevertheless he does not get further, does not reach anything different, for if he discovers this, he has a different explanation for it.

“One must go further, one must go further.” This impulse to go further is an ancient thing in the world.

~ Fear and Trembling
~ Søren Kierkegaard ~ “It is every man’s duty to become revealed.”

Citations:

Kierkegaard, Søren. (1843). Either/Or. Penguin Books, 1992.

Kierkegaard, Søren. (1843). Fear and Trembling. Cambridge; New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006.